By John Burton
RUMSON – Borough police, working with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, have busted a car theft ring they say was responsible for stealing high-end vehicles across the state, including some from the borough.
Rumson Detective Christopher Isherwood had been working with Essex County authorities on a prosecutor’s office task force since October 2011, according to Chief Richard Tobias.
Last Tuesday, the prosecutor announced the arrest of 11 individuals, mostly from the Newark area, as the result of its Operation High-End. The operation was responsible for investigating the theft of expensive autos from affluent communities, according to Katherine Carter, a spokesperson for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
“It came to light because Newark [police] noticed a number of stolen cars turning up from communities where they typically would not have stolen cars,” Carter said.
Members of the ring are alleged to have stolen an average of two vehicles a week, targeting Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes and other high-ticket autos, she said.
Rumson police charged Jimmy Nunez, 31, of Newark, with three counts of second-degree auto theft, two counts of third-degree burglary and one count of third-degree theft of movable property, Tobias said.
Municipal Court Judge Richard Thompson set Nunez’s bail at $75,000 without the option of paying 10 percent to satisfy the bail amount, Tobias said.
Nunez is currently being held in Essex County Jail, Tobias said.
Other complaints are pending from Rumson.
All of the 11 arrested – among them a 17-year-old – have been charged with conspiracy to commit theft and receiving stolen property.
Authorities have charged Freddie Munoz, also known as Patricio Hernandez, 33, Newark, with being the alleged ringleader, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The investigation is continuing and more arrests are expected, authorities said.
The car theft network had been operating from Bergen to Ocean counties, authorities said.
“More often than not the keys were left in the car,” Carter said about the stolen vehicles. In many cases the vehicles were parked on large properties, a distance away from the street.
“I think they were lulled in a sense of, ‘Well, you know, I’m a couple of acres here, nobody is going to come that deep into my property, looking for a car.’ They were mistaken,” she said.